When Jan. 2 rolled around this year, Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Daugherty and Sgt. Lee Cross were working, and neither could help but remember a similar day two years ago.
“Gary said, ‘It’s the two-year anniversary,’ ” Cross said on Wednesday after he and Daugherty received awards for their service that day.
Daugherty was awarded a Purple Heart while Cross received a Commendation Medal for an incident they and many others would love to forget ever happened, an event that nearly ended Daugherty’s life.
He was attempting to throw out a spike strip to stop a vehicle fleeing from a reported robbery. The strip got tangled and Daugherty ran into the road to re-deploy it. As he tried to get out of the road, the fast-approaching fleeing vehicle hit him. Daugherty was thrown approximately 80 feet from the point of impact.
Three weeks later, he went home to continue his lengthy recovery. Daugherty returned to work a year ago.
Wednesday’s pinning has been a long time coming, Sheriff Ed Graybeal said. He had the presentation scheduled twice before, but each other time something happened to cancel the event.
“He’s my hero,” Graybeal said when presenting the Purple Heart, which is the first ever for the department.
Daughterty fought hard to get back to work and said he’s back to full health.
“I’m doing great. There’s nothing that hurts, range of motion is great. It feels good to be back at work,” he said.
Getting hit two years ago “it’s like a distant memory to me;. I focus on the future and what I’m doing now.”
Three weeks after the injury, Daugherty was released from a rehabilitation hospital, but he worked hard through more physical therapy and several surgeries to get back on the job.
“I love the job and I love the people I work with. There’s very few occupations where you have a brotherhood, frat almost, of fellow officers you look forward to seeing everyday and working with. This is one of them,” he said.
Daugherty’s shift supervisor on the day of the incident helped him stay calm.
“When I watch the video, I watched what Sgt. Cross did that day, how he maintained his composure. I believe that helped me.
“When I get this award, to me this represents all the officers, all the sheriff’s deputies who put on that badge and gun everyday and go out because they always put themselves in harm’s way.”
Daugherty knows how quickly a call can turn deadly.
“It may change in an instant. You may be on a call you’ve handled dozens of times, but it may change in an instant,” he said.
That’s what happened for Cross the day Daugherty was hit. He was about to go on break when the call went out about a trio of suspected robbers fleeing in a vehicle.
“I was on my way to eat lunch that day when that call come in. I just happened to be going that way and passed the car they put the BOLO out on and I turned around on it and we all know what happened after that,” Cross said.
He was behind the vehicle when it hit Daugherty and witnessed the aftermath.
The suspects fled from where Daugherty was struck, but were later apprehended and have been to trial and found guilty of reckless endangerment.
There is new legislation being presented to the General Assembly this term to ensure anyone who hits someone while evading arrest gets a conviction more serious than reckless endangerment.
The trio had originally been charged with attempted second-degree murder, but the jury only found them guilty of reckless endangerment.
If the bill is enacted, it will be known as the Gary Daugherty Law.